Be a successful fundraiser: which conferences to attend

A national fundraising campaign by Secours Catholique (Caritas France). Sharing experience is key to developing as a successful fundraiser

By Nigel Wallace, Caritas Internatioanlis Director of Income Development

Professional fundraisers don’t have too many opportunities to get together with their global colleagues to share ideas, learn about new emerging trends, and to share stories of successes, challenges and complex issues. There are, however, 2 major conferences that take place on different continents that are always very much worth a visit. I have been fortunate to attend both and find them refreshing and excellent opportunities to network with colleagues as well as an opportunity to revitalise one’s fundraising batteries. The only problem is that they are both in English language only, without translators, which is a great shame as it eliminates those in our profession who don’t have proficiency in that language. Hopefully, this will change.

The International Fundraising Congress is organised by The Resource Alliance, a global network for building fundraising capacity and inspiring philanthropy worldwide, located in London. Annually, The Resource Alliance holds the IFC in the Netherlands about 30 minutes from Amsterdam. Now in its 32nd year, it attracts over 1,000 delegates from over 60 countries. Last year, that number included representatives from half a dozen or more Caritas members. Speakers who come from all over the world give seminars on a variety of fascinating topics to suit both new comers to the profession of fundraising and seasoned professionals. You can pick those sessions which best match your experience and interest. One of the best features of the conference is that sessions are repeated, so if you plan carefully you can attend the ones that you are really keen to hear. The opening and closing plenaries are given by energetic presenters with good presentation skills and inspiring topics who set the tone for the conference and bring it to a rousing finish. Look for details on the IFC website. While costly to attend, the conference fee does include just about everything from coach transportation from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam to seminars, meals and accommodation. There is an early bird discount if you register by 10 May. Bursaries are also available for eligible candidates.

The other exceptional conference is the AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) International Conference on Fundraising which is held in a North American city each spring. It is bigger than the IFC with the annual gathering attracting more than 4,000 fundraising professionals and over 150 educational sessions designed to meet the requirements of participants from entry level to highly experienced. Both the IFC and AFP conferences feature exhibit halls for vendors where you can find the latest fundraising technology and a variety of other products and services. The most recent AFP International Conference was held last month in beautiful downtown Vancouver. Find out more about AFP and further conferences.

If you are located anywhere near an AFP chapter I thoroughly recommend that you join. You will meet other local fundraisers and have the opportunity to attend professional development events. AFP also promotes the CFRE (Certified Fundraising Executive Programme) which is an excellent designation for any fundraiser to have after their name but, I believe, essential for any new comer to the profession in North America and most likely in other countries of the world. Founded about 10 years ago, the CFRE program is “dedicated to setting standards in philanthropy through a valid and reliable certification process”. Find out more about the CFRE programme.

For those of you in Italy, I hope you are attending Dottore Valerio Melandri’s Festival del Fundraising which is taking place in Forli (near Bologna) for three days in early May.

Nigel has a fundraising working group for Caritas member organisations on the Baobab Tree (members only). Interested Caritas staff members join here.


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